As reported earlier today, Strikeforce announced today that the consensus top heavyweight in the world and MMA icon Fedor Emelianenko's first fight for the organization will take place this winter against undefeated prospect Brett "The Grim" Rogers.
My reaction: Why?
When Scott Coker first floated the idea of his highly-publicized organizational addition not immediately fighting for a title back at the start of the month, the decision seemed illogical. With today's announcement of Rogers as his initial opponent, the move has gone from bad to worse.
What exactly does Strikeforce stand to gain from such a fight? Let's examine the possible outcomes:
Fedor defeats Rogers, as he has done everyone else in his career
While an initial fight without title implications certainly will showcase "The Last Emperor" to the new MMA fans who haven't witnessed the masterly of mixed martial arts that is Fedor Emelianenko, there are few outside of the Brett Rogers camp who actually expect the young slugger to come away from this fight victorious.
Though the win would further show the dominance and rightful contention that Fedor is the baddest man north of 205 pounds, it hands Rogers a pointless blemish on his currently clean record.
This fight makes as much sense as the originally scheduled Shane Carwin-Cain Velasquez tilt that was planned for UFC 104 before Carwin was elevated to a title fight against Brock Lesnar at UFC 106.
One of few bright, young lights in the heavyweight division takes a loss, as well as a step backwards in his development. While there is certainly no shame in losing to the top heavyweight in the world, you automatically have to move Rogers back on the list of title contenders, as very seldom do fighters go from suffering a loss to challenging for the title without a win or two in between.
Theoretically, Rogers could put on a strong showing against Fedor, strengthening his position as a top prospect, but really, no one is disputing that fact at this point.
Everyone saw the quick work he made of Andrei Arlovski and that alone was enough to vault him into the Top 10 of the heavyweight division and have everyone agreeing that he will be a viable contender in the coming years.
Rogers scores an upset for the ages
Here's the real dangerous side of the coin.
What the hell does Strikeforce do should Brett Rogers walk into the ring and leave with the victory? They will have a multi-million dollar investment whose actual worth would be far less.
Not that one loss will send Fedor plummeting from the rankings and into MMA oblivion, but the invincible aura that surrounds "The Last Emperor" will be removed and subsequent fights would be far less appealing. Of course, far less appealing equals far less revenue.
While they would certainly be able to market Rogers as "The Fedor Killer" or something equally absurd, they've already sunk a ton of money into the Fedor acquisition and partnership with M-1 Global.
Thus, he is the main attraction of the organization moving forward, and though a change in direction isn't in the plans, the power Rogers has displayed thus far could conceivably cause an unintended and pricey detour.
What Strikeforce Should Do
Losing to heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem would even be better than losing to Rogers, as it would justify Overeem's place atop the organization's heavyweight division. It would also create a worthy challenger for the likes of fellow heavyweight contenders Rogers and Fabricio Werdum.
Additionally, Fedor is the unquestioned top heavyweight in the world, and while casual fans and those who have only recently removed themselves from living in the UFC bubble might not be able to identify him if they passed him on the street, he's received enough coverage over the last month that even they are aware of his standing atop the heavyweight world.
If the UFC was ready and willing to give him an immediate shot at Brock Lesnar, why wouldn't Strikeforce do the same?
Furthermore, Rogers stands a better chance of defeating someone like Werdum or one of the potential free agent acquisitions Strikeforce could bring into the fold between now and then than he does against Fedor. He is the fighter who needs the push and opportunity to gain recognition amongst the first-time followers, not Emelianenko.
What Will Most Likely Happen
Champion Alistair Overeem will also make an appearance on the reported November 6th card, provided he's finally healthy, defending his title, and receiving an introduction to the North American market.
Fedor will presumably defeat Rogers and will then be given a title shot against whoever comes away from that night with the belt in their possession.
Basically, this show will set up the fight that should be taking place to begin with: Fedor Emelianenko versus the Strikeforce heavyweight champion.